Almost two months since the Myanmar military staged a coup that overthrew the country’s newly elected government, pro-democracy activists and civil society in the country continue to stage daily demonstrations.
But beyond sharing the relevant hashtags on social media, what concrete actions can the regional and international communities do to support those protesting on the ground? EngageMedia hears straight from Thinzar Shunlei Yi, a prominent pro-democracy activist, on how exactly the military is using technology against protesters, and what kinds of support Myanmar civil society needs to continue their fight for democracy.
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- Despite constant harassment and online threats, Shunlei has and continues to be very outspoken against the Myanmar military. We have curated here a list of her English interviews with other media outlets:
- With VPNs and fancy dress, Myanmar youth fight ‘turning back of the clock’ by The Guardian
- Why Did It Take A Coup? by The Atlantic
- We ‘Have the Mind to Win This Battle’ – Myanmar Activist Speaks Out About Coup, Crackdown by VOA News
- Myanmar Activist: We Want Our Own Script by New Naratif
- EngageMedia has also been closely monitoring the situation in Myanmar and supporting activists’ digital security needs. Here’s a list of our public initiatives and content on Myanmar:
- Free VPN for digital rights defenders: A partnership between TunnelBear and EngageMedia
- Democracy and Digital Rights Derailed in Myanmar, where we list the digital rights violations committed by the military during and after the coup (such as internet throttling and censorship of independent media)
- Pretty Good Podcast Episode 9: The digital and democratic challenges in telling Myanmar’s story, where we interview filmmaker Stephen Minus on his personal experience documenting the protests in Myanmar. In 2020, we also interviewed Burmese scholar Maung Zarni to give context to the situation in Myanmar.
- Democracy Derailed: Curated Videos on Myanmar
- As it is also International Women’s Month this March, we also asked Shunlei about her experience as one of many young female activists fighting for democracy on the frontlines. This is not an isolated occurrence. Last year, a female Thai activist was also the target of online sexual harassment. Women journalists are also often targeted.
- During the episode, Shunlei lists three concrete ways that we from regional and international communities can support Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement:
- “Spread information and raise awareness about the Myanmar situation to the people around you”. As much as possible, we recommend you support independent media in Myanmar and news from sources on the ground.
- “Pressure your government representatives to denounce what is happening, which will also pressure the Myanmar junta to stop the violence”. Across Asia, members of the Milk Tea Alliance have held protests in their respective countries. Countries in the West have also imposed varying levels of sanctions against Myanmar, sanctions the military claims it is ready to deal with. Pro-democracy supporters are also calling for a stronger response from the United Nations, which as of writing has denounced the violence against the protesters but has yet to impose other sanctions.
- “Ensure your own governments are also held accountable for their crimes”. Shunlei stresses that the Myanmar military is emboldened to continue its anti-democratic actions and state-sanctioned violence because there are other countries doing the same thing. What is happening in Myanmar also has direct implications in Asia, making it even more important to ensure that your respective governments do not condone further human and digital rights abuses.